Lady Gaga, nee Stefani Germanotta, is a 22-year old New York native singer/songwriter whose debut album, The Fame, features dizzyingly danceable tracks like the aptly titled, “Just Dance,” “Beautiful, Dirty, Rich,” and “Paparazzi.” Thanks to a high/low art musical mix-n-match, and a futuristic glam-girl persona, the musically trained Gaga (whose name is a play on Queen’s “Radio Gaga”) is inevitably headed towards major superstardom. After starting with open-mic nights at the Bitter End and becoming a must-see act on the New York club circuit, she quickly landed a major deal with Interscope Records. Here’s our candid interview with the disco sister, and don’t worry, we didn’t know who Joe Biden was either.
Can I call you Lady GaGa on the phone right now or is that weird? Sure, call me GaGa.
OK GaGa, what was your first word? Oh my gosh!
Oh yeah girl, I’m coming at you with some doozies, so be ready. Oh my God, I’m really going to have to think about that.
We can go back to it. I think it was Daddy. I think it was Dada.
OK, and what music did your parents listen to when you were growing up? Oh my God the best. Like Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, like the best shit ever.
Was it hard with your parents to let you move to New York when you were 17? Actually, I grew up in New York.
In the city? Yeah, in the city. So I moved out after a year of college. Actually, I moved out after high school, and then I dropped out of college. So that was the hard part, when I dropped out of school.
Because? Because I didn’t want any help from them. I didn’t want any money, I didn’t want anything. I just wanted to live on my own, make music, and do it the right way.
Yeah, let’s get into your music and your training. I was watching one of the Transmission Gagavision webisodes, and you mentioned the profound impact that Rilke’s “Letters To A Young Poet” had on you. How does high art, like Rilke, relate to pop music? You know, I think that pop is considered to be very lowbrow. And I really love Andy Warhol and what he did to make pop culture figures iconic, and how he took commercial art and made it fine. He made fine art out of, I don’t know, commercial … the concept of commercial work. And that’s what I’m trying to do. It’s pop music, but it’s art. It’s pop art music.
It’s interesting because on one hand, it’s really accessible music. The vocab is very accessible, but then you have this kind of classic outlandish style that people can just rock in a mall in Minnesota. Also, the lyrics are pretty drifted. Like if you listen to “Paparazzi,” the song seems to be about one thing. But then you really dive into the lyrics, and it’s about a lot more.
You wrote a new song on Britney Spears’ album and have written for the Pussycat Dolls, right? Yeah it’s true.
So do you get high? [Laughs] Do I have to get high writing them?
How do you channel the place where you know you are writing super-seductive lyrics for sexy singers, even though it’s not really your persona? How do you get into their zone? The idea is to always to write a hit.
How do you know when you have one? In the sound, it makes you dance, it’s undeniable, and you know when it’s not. I’m really good at knowing when it’s not.
One of the things I wanted to talk about is race. What you’re doing is kind of cross-racial, working with R&B cats like Akon, and also more electric musicians. Do you consider racial factors when making hits? Yeah, it’s really true. It conquers race boundaries in terms of the audience, and I also cross sexual boundaries, with straight audiences and gay audiences. It’s funny, I played a show in San Francisco this weekend, and it was supposed to be a gay night at a club, and it was not just gays. It was gays, it was straights, you know, men and women. It was black, it was white, it was Asian — it was everybody all showing up on a gay night.
What are some of the things you think are sexy? I think intelligence is really hot. I think that “Love Game” and “Poker Face” are really sexy because the lyrics are just smart, but it’s about sex.
Oh, “Poker Face” is about sex? I was going to ask you who has a better poker face, Lauren Conrad from The Hills, or Joe Biden? Who?
Joe Biden. Who’s that?
The Vice Presidential candidate running with Barack Obama. Oh my God, I’m so sorry. Please don’t put that in the interview! I’ve been on tour in Europe, and I haven’t watched the news in like five months. But I am voting for Obama.
How many interviews have you had, like 11? Um, yeah.
I’m sure we’re all asking the same questions. How do you keep it fresh? [Laughs] Yeah, you are keeping me on my toes! I am really grateful for what I do. I really love it, so it’s not fake with me.
How much does the Kelis’ “Bossy” video influence you? It seems similar to “Beautiful, Dirty Rich” in many ways, including you writhing on money, compared to Kelis writhing on jewels. Well, Kelis was actually on flowers when she did that in “Bossy.” I remember because I do like that video, but a lot of people have done that. Pharell Williams and Ludacris did it in the “Moneymaker” video. I could name so many hip-hop videos that have done that, and that was the idea. I wanted to take the idea of women and video — and I don’t think we’ve ever seen a white rocker chick with a hard edge like me — do a hip-hop iconic image like that in a serious way; not making fun of it. So that was the idea. The song is not about really being beautiful and dirty rich, it’s about having no money, and no matter who you are, or where you come from, being able to embody fame, art, and your culture, in a way that you can feel beautiful and dirty rich, no matter what.
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